What It Means to Eat Fresh in Ayurveda
Ayurveda states that our meals must be as fresh as possible to help maintain health and get more prana (life force) from the food. No matter how good a meal is, and how well it suits our constitution, when eaten not fresh it has a tamasic effect on us. Tamas means ignorance, lethargy, and destruction. See “How food affects our mind”.
But what does freshness really mean? Do we need to buy fresh ingredients every day, or only cook fresh every day?
The essential factor here is the cooking process, the transformation the food undertakes using the fire element. Ayurveda recommends to eat cooked dish, or a cut-up raw dish the same day you prepare them. Some texts consider meals eaten later then four hours after preparing or any reheated meal not fresh. And all yesterday meals are leftovers not good for a healthy diet anymore.
Degree of freshness is as following from high to low:
- Fresh picked food.
- Fresh pre-picked food.
- Raw produce kept whole in cold storage.
- Food cooked the same day.
Everything else is unfortunately not fresh.
A leftover is a food that has been kept overnight. It doesn’t matter if you cooked it in the morning or just before going to sleep. Late evening and night are tamasic times of the day (morning is sattvic, and day rajasic). Have you noticed that when it’s getting dark all kind of ignorant beings from people to animals come out of their dwellings? Prepared food is also under influence of tamas at that time.
What to do? Where find time for every day cooking? As all in life this is the matter of priorities. Let’s take a situation when someone you are in love with asks you out. Would you find time to go? Or, when your favorite team is playing, wouldn’t you take care in advance to make sure nothing disturbs you from enjoying the game? But why not to fall in love with our own body and take care in advance, so that nothing disturbs it from enjoying the healthy happy life? Money, career, and other things we are running after, are enjoyable only when we are healthy. Think about priorities and you will find the time. May be cutting down hours we spend in front of TV is a solution…
I understand that this approach undermines everything we are so used to, like “a creative use of leftovers”, and aisles and aisles of pre-cooked frozen meals in grocery stores. But if you only try this approach for a month, your body will distinctly distinguish between real fresh food and old food finding the latter less and less appealing.
When we cook, our meal undergoes certain transformations becoming more and more appropriate for our body and mind. Food by itself consists mainly of the earth element, the most gross humor of all five elements. When we place it in water, we add the water principle, which is subtler than earth. Cooking on the stove adds the elements of fire and air since fire needs air to burn. Element of ether, the subtlest of all primary elements, allows the dish to take up a certain space. After that we can even more refine the way the food affect us by saying a prayer before consuming our meal, being grateful for it. It this case we add non material, spiritual energy to our dish.
Here are some tips helping freshly eating:
- No pressure. Start with cooking fresh when you can.
- Cook the same meal for both lunch and dinner.
- Cook smaller portions, not to be tempted by leftovers.
- Take turns with your friends sharing meals and the responsibility for cooking.
- Cook simple and easy meals.
- Find a good deli or produce stand at local farmers market.
In case you are buying fresh food cooked by someone else, remember, that you are also “eating” the emotions the cook was experiencing when cooking. Did you ever think why your mother’s meals always tasted excellent? This is because she added her love for you to them. Vedas teach that a woman can protect the family by cooking food in kind humor, wishing well to all beings. Such a family will be strong and loving.
TODAY’S TIP: Vedas say, that when a cat or dog looks at your meal before you eat, they already ate it the their mind. Therefore we eat what is left after our pets. That food is considered defiled. Neither kitchen nor dining room is a place suitable for domestic animals.